UNESCO has urged ECOWAS member states to focus on the welfare of teachers in order to ensure effective achievement of Education for All (EFA) Goals by 2015.
Mrs Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Director, UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Africa, made the call at the Fourth Conference of ECOWAS Ministers of Education on Saturday in Abuja
Ndong-Jatta said that ECOWAS Ministers of Education needed to make teachers' welfare a priority at the national level, adding that it is crucial for the performance of teachers and the quality of students.
"There are a few priority areas that need the collective attention of Ministers, especially as regards the quality of learning, teachers' professional development, their training, remuneration and working conditions which are critical to the performance of teachers.
"More importantly, we want to make sure we have a real engagement with teachers; no matter what we do, irrespective of the clean data we have, irrespective of the curriculum, irrespective of the norms and standards, if we do not look at the attention that should be given to teachers, vain would be our hope of really overcoming the challenges in the sub-region.
"So, UNESCO is ready to continue to work in ensuring that we take to scale the importance that teachers should get, in ensuring that we have the right numbers, we have the right quality and appeal to governments, in particular, to provide the right level of remuneration and status for teachers
"We are promoting the idea of once a teacher, you should be able to really have certain benefits like free education for the children of all teachers right from primary to university; to ensure that you have quality housing for teachers especially in the rural areas; and those kinds of benefits that would really bring quality people into the teaching field."
The UNESCO director also noted that Africa needed up to four million teachers by 2015 to achieve the EFA Goals.
She said: "The appeal in the message of Teachers' Day is to take a stand for teachers and defend their rights and conditions.
"Africa needs up to four million teachers before 2015 to achieve the EFA Goals; and without adequate numbers and quality teachers, building the human capabilities to claim the twenty-first century would be an illusion."
The UNESCO director commended the ECOWAS Technical Committees on Education for the input made in addressing the three areas of focus being reviewed by the conference in line with the AU Plan of Action for the Second Decade of Education for Africa from 2006 to 2015.
She urged ECOWAS member states to go beyond the review and adoption of recommendations to the implementation at the national levels.
"I do not think it is just adopting it; at the beginning we have already been working on it, now it is more of consolidating the gains since the last education ministers' meeting.
"UNESCO continues to champion the mobilisation of partners around these priorities; now it is to go down into implementation, and we have to continue mobilising additional partners to ensure that adequate financing for the consolidation that is required takes place."
It will be recalled that the Fourth Conference of ECOWAS Ministers of Education which began on Tuesday set out to consider reports and recommendations of consultative and interactive meetings in three areas.
The areas include Technical and Vocational Education,Training, Education Management Information System as well as Education for Culture of Peace, Human Rights, Citizenship, Democracy and Regional Integration.
Dr Toga McIntosh, Vice President ECOWAS Commission, in his address, described education as fundamental to the sub-region's socio-economic development.
McIntosh added that the adoption of recommendations by the ministers would facilitate efforts made so far in enhancing the sub-region's education sector.
In her remarks, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa'i, Nigeria's Minister of Education, commended the efforts made by the technical committees.
Rufa'i identified the challenge of "lean financial resources" and urged member states to support efforts being made to address the challenges of education in the sub-region.
The Fourth Conference of ECOWAS Ministers of Education is expected to adopt reports of the consultative and interactive meetings in the areas of Technical and Vocational Education, Training and Education Management Information System as well as Education for Culture of Peace.